December 14, 2011
I got my first Opinel pocket knife at age seven—the age of reason, my parents must have thought—during a summer vacation in the French Alps. Each member of my family had one, and they got plenty of use during mountain hikes: my father’s to carve intricate pattern on his walking stick, my mother’s to butter the baguette sandwiches when we stopped for the midday picnic.
I was thrilled to get my own, a tiny, child-size replica of the classic Savoyard pocket knife, with its glossy wood handle, its pointy steel blade, and the rotating ring that locked it all into place.
Twenty-five years later, this miniature Opinel is much too small for me to use, but I have a grownup’s version now, which I’m sure to take with me on any walk in the wild, and especially on mushroom foraging trips: not to brag, but that Opinel has seen its share of porcini.
Opinel pocket knives make for wonderful gifts, too: they’re not at all expensive, they’ll last a lifetime, and they’ll accompany the recipient on their outdoor adventures—even if it’s just an improvised picnic in the park. Just be sure to have them give you a coin (any small piece of change will do) in exchange for the knife: French superstition states that if you give away a knife without getting anything in return, you risk severing the friendship.